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Bukavu

Bukavu really surprised us. It is a huge city that looks like what you would expect along the Medeteranian coast. Dr. Florimond told us the city is home to over 1 million people, but was designed to hold only 300,000. It is very modern in many ways – people dress modern, motorcycles and taxis are zooming around. But almost all the women wear skirts, the electricity goes off regularly and the roads are full of potholes or made of dirt.

I noticed a few similarities between Congo and what I saw in France. Everyone here has a gate around their home, just like Paris. And Dr. Florimond’s home, where we are staying, has a lock on every door – and they insist we lock them- just like in Paris. I don’t know how much that is a coincidence and how much it is the French influence.

It seems so strange that a city as beautiful as Bukavu is only two hours drive from circular grass “huts” and people so poor they have no shoes. Picture New York City placed in southern France and you will get a good picture of Bukavu. The houses are built up the mountain facing the lake, and they are so beautiful. Granted, these are the homes of the wealthy, but every city has both rich and poor.

The differences between urban and rural here are so much more distinct than in the US. In the rural areas, the only cars we saw were the ones driving through – we only passed two cars in the three hours from Uvira to Bukavu. Most of the places we saw had little or no clean water, no electricity. Even Bukavu, this amazingly large city, suffers from the lack of electricity.

We are leaving Bukavu this afternoon and will spend at least 9 days in Nayngezyi for the training. We have been told there is no internet there, but we may be surprised.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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